South Portland man sues Cumberland County district attorney, claims Anderson acted improperly in custody case
SOUTH PORTLAND — A man involved in a long-running child custody case is suing Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson in federal court.
Igor Malenko claims Anderson's involvement in the dispute between him and his ex-wife, Washington, D.C., resident Lori Handrahan, was inappropriate and violated his civil rights.
Malenko and Handrahan have been in a legal battle over their 5-year-old daughter for several years. At various turns, each has accused the other of physically and psychologically abusing the girl.
According to a police report obtained by The Forecaster and verified by Malenko's attorney, Michael Waxman, Cape Elizabeth police officers responded Jan. 27 to an incident at a day-care center, where Handrahan allegedly tried to take her daughter away from Malenko's wife, who was dropping off the child.
Handrahan gave the police a copy of a court order that granted her visitation rights on the first, third and fourth weekend of every month, the police report says.
The order also gives Malenko, the girl's custodial parent, decision-making authority over the child's well-being, which he interprets to include barring the child from seeing her mother. The lawsuit claims Malenko had reason to believe he'd never see his daughter again if she went with her mother.
According to the police report, Anderson called Sgt. Andrew Steindl, and said she was returning a call from Cape Elizabeth Police Chief Neil Williams. The chief on Wednesday declined to comment on the case, but said he did not call Anderson about the matter.
Anderson told Steindl she'd consulted with Maine District Court Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz, who issued the order, and determined that Malenko's decision-making authority did not grant him the right to deny visitation to the girl's mother.
The district attorney told Steindl the 5-year-old could go with her mother, but the officer chose to have DHHS mediate the matter. A case worker determined that barring a new order from Moskowitz, the girl ought to go with her father.
Waxman, Malenko's attorney, said his client is suing Anderson because questions of custody cannot be decided behind closed doors. He said it was inappropriate for Anderson to consult with a judge and instruct Steindl to send the girl home with her mother.
“If there were ambiguity in a civil order, that gets hashed out in a hearing with both parties given a chance to give their arguments and then (to the judge to) make a decision," he said. "It doesn't get done in a back-room, private, secret meeting. In our country, that's not how work gets done.”
Waxman said Wednesday he suspected someone contacted Anderson on behalf of Handrahan. Steindl indicated in his report that Anderson said she planned to contact Handrahan's attorney, Judy Potter.
Malenko's lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, Feb. 7. Anderson has 20 days after she is served to file a response with the court. Malenko is seeking a jury trial and compensation for emotional damages.
Anderson on Wednesday declined to discuss the lawsuit, but had an assistant direct calls to Assistant Attorney General William Fisher, who will represent Anderson. Fisher did not return calls to his office.